Structuring the Non-Fiction Book

How should you structure your non-fiction book?

According to Wikipedia, “Form follows function is a principle associated with 20th-century modernist architecture and industrial design which says that the shape of a building or object should primarily relate to its intended function or purpose.”

It is a concept that can also apply to the layout of a non-fiction book.

Many people write a book to provide a guide to others about a topic, or convince others they are right (there’s a lot of that going around!), or reflect on their lives. A non-fiction writer generally has some type of thesis … whether defined or not.

Back to Wikipedia: “A thesis statement usually appears at the middle or end[1] of the introductory paragraph of a paper, and it offers a concise summary of the main point or claim of the essay, research paper, etc. It is usually expressed in one sentence, and the statement may be reiterated elsewhere.”

If you are in the process of writing your non-fiction book, take a few minutes and write out your thesis for the book. Can’t do it? Then your book may be meandering around searching for itself. Now’s the time to take a walk, a nap, meditate, or do the chores you’ve been putting off. Let your subconscious work. Then come back and try again. It doesn’t have to be perfect … it just has to BE.

Your thesis is your macro-level definition of your book. Below it you have your arguments which can each be broken down into smaller and smaller bites. The bottom of this pyramid represents the micro-level of your book.

Ideally, a book should either start at a macro-level and lay out the arguments, or lay out the arguments to draw the reader to the same conclusion you have already reached. Either works. It depends on what you want to do … your function dictates your form.

Further Reading

When I wrote my first tech book, Exploring IBM E-Business Software, I relied heavily on Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write by Elizabeth Lyon.  I recommend reading it before tacking your next non-fiction book.

I’d love to be part of your writing journey in 2020. Shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss your next project.

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